U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy denied environmental groups’ request for an injunction to stop wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho, ruling Tuesday night that the plaintiffs “failed to show a likelihood of irreparable harm to the wolf population.” It means Montana’s first state-sponsored wolf hunting season will begin as planned Sept. 15.
But environmental groups are still claiming victory, because Molloy also wrote that, although they didn’t meet their burden for issuing a preliminary injunction, they “are likely to be able to meet their burden to show the balance of equities tip in their favor. They would also likely prevail in showing an injunction is in the public interest.”
“We’re feeling very positive and optimistic that in the long run we have an enormous chance of success in this case,” says Louisa Willcox of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Specifically, Molloy said that because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service excluded Wyoming in its decision to delist the wolf that the agency appeared to violate the Endangered Species Act.
"The Service has distinguished a natural population of wolves based on a political line,
not the best available science," he wrote. "That, by definition, seems arbitrary and capricious."
Defenders of Wildlife, NRDC and a handful of other environmental and animal welfare groups sued the federal government in June over its decision to remove wolves from the endangered species list in Montana and Idaho and give management authority to the states, which allow for hunting. Montana set a wolf hunt quota of 75 wolves, Idaho 220. Idaho’s hunt began Sept. 1.
“We are concerned about what might happen in the meantime…,” Willcox says. “We hope that people are prudent and careful. And we also think that wolves might be harder to hunt than people believe.”
Adds Suzanne Asha Stone of Defenders of Wildlife: “We’re disappointed, obviously, that the injunction wasn’t awarded, especially for Idaho wolves. It’s even more serious than what we’re looking at in Montana right now. And it’s not that we’re opposed to having a wolf hunt eventually. Eventually that will be part of the management strategy in the states. But Idaho has taken such an extreme position that it’s not just the 220 wolves. The commissioners were very clear when they met on Aug. 17 that they’re going to reduce their wolf population by at least half, and the Idaho state legislature can go even lower than that.”
Jerry Brenner of Frenchtown’s Five Valley Taxidermy, for one, is happy with Molloy’s decision.
“That’s good,” he says. “I’ve been keeping my eye on it and I’ve had a lot of customers that have called and asked me about prices to do a wolf.”